Pricing to the Employee vs. Pricing to the Job

Mykkah Herner, MA, CCP, PayScale

As an employee, I’m often concerned with my own value and
therefore worth to the organization. As a manager, I was often trying to
determine the value of each job to the organization. Now as a comp
professional, I focus on a little bit of both: the value of the job itself, but
also the value of the employee to the organization.

Pricing to Employees

I’ve seen a lot of companies that
price by the employee. Each employee has a unique title based on her or his
skills, and as a result they are compensated as an individual employee based on
their skills, years, of experience, etc. This strategy can be problematic in a
few ways:

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  • It opens the door to pay inequity for jobs that
    are essentially the same. Pricing by the employee opens the door to favoritism
    by managers
    , where more popular employees get paid higher than their peers with
    better performance.
  • Employees may be compensated for skills or
    certifications that are essentially irrelevant to the work, and in some cases
    to the organization’s very purpose!
  • The pay structure may become lopsided or
    non-logical, where employees are compensated at a higher rate than their
  • Finally, pricing to the employee often results
    in overall compensation practices that fall high relative to the market.

Of course
for some cases, pricing to the employee may work and make a certain amount of
sense. I have seen this work in small, developing organizations. In these
cases, the existing employees are building the jobs as they go, so pricing to
the employees’ skills may work. Also, because there tend to be single incumbent
roles in smaller organizations, the danger of having pay inequity issues is

Pricing to the Job

I tend to
focus first and foremost on pricing to the job, which means identifying the
parameters, roles, responsibilities, skills, education, etc., required to do each
job in the organization. I do this for a number of reasons:

  • Pricing to the job creates an emphasis on what
    the organization needs overall to be successful.
  • It creates the ability to be more strategic and
    think holistically about what is necessary for the organization.
  • The pay-plan developed for the organization and
    for each job is the right size for the scope of the position.

Of course
just pricing to the job, without considering differences among employee
skill-sets and experience also has its challenges. Ultimately it’s a
combination of both pricing to the job and accounting for employee
contributions that will be most successful.

Putting it all Together

Price out
the job first. Develop a range of pay for each position in your organization.
Then consider your employee contributions and place them in range based on
their skills, experience, knowledge, tenure, performance, etc. Consider these
factors at the point of hire, during evaluation periods, and when championing

Often I will
hear a certain anxiety amongst either managers or leaders who are unwilling to
create a firm cap to pay ranges. There is a psyche that comes with being capped
out, and it should be taken seriously. That said, there are lots of ways to
motivate employees, even those that are maxed out in their ranges. Consider a
performance-based bonus—for those who cap out, if they continue to meet x,y,z
criteria that forward the goals of the company, provide them with an additional
lump sum bonus. That way you’re acknowledging that there is a value to the
position, and also there is a value to the work being performed by your

In the end,
it’s the blended approach that works best: price the job, consider the employee

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1 Comment on "Pricing to the Employee vs. Pricing to the Job"

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Dale Dvorak

I am interested in a salary range for an 8-10 million dollar retail furniture store in Marin County one hour north of San Francisco. This is a national multi billion dollar co. expanding its furniture business. I have 20 years direct experience managing this type of operation. and one year of service with the company now.